For the first time in recent years, Spotsylvania County may maintain the existing real estate tax rate following an increase in home values.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4–3 Tuesday to advertise the current real estate tax rate of 85 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Supervisors Timothy McLaughlin, David Ross and Paul Trampe—who routinely oppose tax increases—voted against that advertised rate, which can be lowered but not raised after a March 29 public hearing on next fiscal year’s proposed budget.

The taxable value of residential and commercial property shot up 8.2 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively, during the 2018 reassessment. Since 2014, supervisors have decreased the rate by at least a penny after reassessments, which occur every two years. Property values dropped in 2010 and 2012, but have gradually increased since then.

Supervisors also voted 5–2 Tuesday to advertise no change to the car tax rate of $6.55 per $100 of assessed value, with McLaughlin and Ross voting “no.” Supervisor Chris Yakabouski said he intends to lower that rate, but wanted some flexibility before making a final decision.

Board Chairman Greg Benton, a Republican who is viewed as the swing vote on taxes, proposed advertising the 85-cent real estate rate, but said he is not sure what rate he will ultimately support. Supervisors are scheduled to set tax rates April 10 or 12.

Under an 85-cent rate, the county could fully fund requests from the School Board, Sheriff’s Office and Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“I motioned for the 85 [cents] but I’m not there yet as far as what I’ve been looking through the budget at,” Benton said.

The owner of a home that went up in value from $250,000 to $270,500—or 8.2 percent—would pay $2,299 in real estate taxes if the rate goes unchanged, or $174 more than last year. The same homeowner would still see an $83 tax increase under the “equalized” tax rate of .8164 cents, which County Administrator Mark Taylor recommended.

Taylor’s proposed $527 million budget includes a $2.6 million increase in county tax dollars for Spotsylvania Public Schools, though the School Board would need $2 million on top of that to balance its proposed spending plan.

The School Board’s proposed spending plan includes 60 additional positions and a 4 percent raise for teachers, though health insurance premiums would also go up.

Budget discussions have been contentious in recent years, particularly between anti-tax conservatives and the Spotsylvania Education Association. The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting initially did not reserve time for public comments, but supervisors unanimously voted to let residents speak after receiving complaints from some residents.

Education association President Jeanne Bergeron, a teacher at Riverbend High School, asked supervisors to advertise an 85-cent rate. Lowering it now would discourage participation at next month’s public hearing, she said, adding: “Let us have a good discussion.”

Michael Smith, a Spotsylvania resident who spoke on behalf of the Fredericksburg Virginia Patriots tea party group, encouraged supervisors to advertise a 3-cent reduction to the real estate rate. “President Trump and Congress delivered tax relief to the people, and we know our [Democratic] governor won’t, but we hope the Board of Supervisors will,” he said.

Parent Megan Jackson encouraged supervisors to invest in school-security measures—including metal detectors—in the wake of last week’s mass shooting at a southern Florida high school. She has a child at Thornburg Middle School, which was the target of a threatening social media post being investigated by the Sheriff’s Office.

“Every single child on this earth deserves to go to school and only worry about school—they should not be in fear for their lives, and I am certain that is one thing we can all agree on,” she said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402

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Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402

jbranscome@freelancestar.com

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